Located up Volcano Highway on 24 beautiful acres in upper Puna, Hilo Coffee Mill is a great Big Island stop for food, espresso and a bit of coffee culture. The plantation-era home has been revamped into a restaurant and factory. Plus, it's surrounded by a beautifully manicured lawn; fruit and flower trees; and a collection of mother hens and chicks free ranging.
The simple but fulfilling menu is good for breakfast or lunch and offers a full array of espresso, coffee, smoothies and other drinks. Food items include bagels with lox, cream cheese and tomato, as well as waffles, sandwiches and other snacks.
Indoor and outdoor tables offer places to eat and utilize the free wireless Internet. Adjacent to the restaurant area is a complete viewing area, where guests can watch the staff roast and package all of their gourmet Hawaiian coffee, teas, chocolates and more.
Watch coffee prep at the mill. — Photo courtesy of Hilo Coffee Mill
A small store and tasting bar offers a wide array of coffee cups, coffee and tea supplies, reusable shopping bags and other trinkets. There's plenty of free local publication to relax with and read, as well as other travel and tourist information. The wraparound porch offers a shaded area with a nice breeze to eat, browse the web and refuel before hitting the road again.
The mill is just about a 15-minute drive away from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Encompassing more than 350 square acres, this national park is one of the most photographed locales in the Hawaiian chain. The dramatic landscape includes Thurston Lava Tube, still-smoldering Halemaumau Crater and majestic Mauna Loa's highly active Pu'u O'o vent, which has been spewing lava since 1993.
Visitors are free to explore the park's 50 or so miles of roadways, which wind in and out of dense tropical rainforest that surrounds Mauna Loa, but they're encouraged to stay on guard since volcanic activity is commonplace. The Kilauea Visitor Center sits just inside the park's main entrance.
Hilo Coffee Mill — Photo courtesy of Hilo Coffee Mill
Or, follow up breakfast and coffee in the other direction at Champagne Pond. Nestled along the Puna Coast, this is perhaps the best swimming area on this side of the island. A quite huge natural pond with a natural rock bottom, a rocky beach area on one side and backed by rock walls in the back, the pond is a blend of fresh ocean water and quite warm fresh water.
Heated naturally by geothermal heat (There's lots of lava activity nearby.), the ponds are always completely calm and make a perfect place for swimming and snorkeling.